This was my childhood paintbrush. When all I saw were the colors black and white. There was good....there was bad, hot and cold, up and down. I had not yet learned the different shades of black or the infinite boredom of only white. I believed what I was told by everyone because I had not yet learned that there were things such as lies, betrayal....lukewarm feelings. The revelation of those things caused me to learn to paint sometimes with gray....neutral...non-threatening....easy because it blended with everything and offended nothing.
As a grew a little older my paintbrush was heavy with the colors of the rainbow and all the shades in between. I learned to look for nuances in shade and tonality and I began to see people as colors. Some people were vivid....vibrant. Others were plain and pale and uninteresting. I wanted to be all the colors....but more than any I wanted to be a bright, happy, and sunshiny yellow. While my childhood was often turbulent, it was full of events that sometimes made me have to step out from the comfortable places and face things. Sometimes I faced them with my rainbow paint brush, making things seem better than they were. And, sometimes, I reverted to unassuming, non-confrontational gray.
As time passed I found myself defined by other colors....like maroon and white which represented my school, my friends, and my safe haven in times of trouble because more than occasionally I found areas of my life were very black. During these times....I found myself longing for the grey days when I could simply blend with little expected of me. But, for me, gray was cowardly, so, I threw myself into maroon and white with like minded people and spent several years hiding out in the colors of my cheer uniform.
I became older....terribly old at 18....and I married. Often my paint brush during this time was bright red....blood red....angry, angry red.
But my babies came along and the purity of the love I had for them turned my paint brush a soft pink. This became my favorite brush and I tried to make it last as long as I could, but sometimes the other colors leaked in and I found that each time they did, my pretty soft pink brush just didn't paint quite as nicely as before.
I've often had a passing romance with a blue brush when tears fell like rain and mixed with every other color making a confusion of patterns.
I've even painted with a green brush from time to time....envious of other people and other things....things that seemed easier and more pleasant than what my own reality had become. I've dabbled in dirty brown paint that was hard to clean off and I've often been a ridiculous shade of purple - so angry I boiled.
I've come to know that each color I've painted with for a season represented what kind of person I was at the time. Even when I revisited certain colors their vibrance was a little different, sometimes softer....sometimes bordering on a disturbing neon version.
I'm different today. I paint a lot in red....not because I'm angry anymore, but because I like it....it is strong and can stand up to other colors. I also paint in yellow now more than ever...because I've found I can be happy with myself even when others are not. I am the only one who knows my heart. I still have moments when blue and green come calling but I'm happy to say that brown and black are nearly a thing of the past. I don't have time for them....my life left is short and I don't want dirty or hurtful things to color any of my days. I learned to use gray again, because it is in my gray areas that I find my tolerance for others who may not think as I do or agree with me. The tolerance for differences and the tolerance that helps me understand that someone may be having their season with a particular paint brush and they just need to paint it out till it is finished.
I am so very different than I was at 14, 18, 25, 40....50. In fact, probably my biggest transformation has come in the last 5 or 6 years. Life dealt me an exhausting and heart wrenching blow that changed me forever. I struggled to find anything that remotely could represent that time frame for me and all I can think of was that I was painting for a while in transparency.
My feelings were out there, raw like an open wound but most of the time I felt almost invisible. With the exception of a very few people, I don't think anyone was aware of the magnitude of my isolation. Losing your mother as an only child of hers with no one to share that pain....that ripping hurt and then having to nearly single handedly spend years putting her life and her things away was demoralizing and sometimes dehumanizing.
I was a living ghost going through the motions of life, trying to hold together my own fragile person. On the day I shredded the final piece of paper of all the records mom had kept for decades was the day I begin to feel a lightening in my spirit. As the last tax return (from 1962) slid through the shredder with staple intact it seemed to pull my anger, pain and disappointment with it.
It didn't happen quickly or easily but finally, all the things that seemed so important and all the issues I felt so strongly about sort of faded into softer shades of themselves and I gathered them in to my colorful life and tried to make sure they remained part of my palette but that none of them would ever dominate the picture again.
I have strong feelings....even stronger opinions but I have learned a tolerance for things I never thought I would. It is not that I agree with them, but I have realized that I can only paint my picture with the colors God has provided me with and allow others to do the same.
More than anything else, I've realized that I am strong and if I were not me I think I would like the person I am today. The bristles on my brush are more than a little worn and there is evidence of all the past colors used and cleaned and used again, but more and more I find myself picking up the happy colors. I have days. Days when I go black, dark and dirty.....I hope that is natural. I think what is important is to learn to not live in the dark and dismal side of life. To always be seeking the light and happy moments that make things better for ourselves and maybe eventually for others...particularly those who might have gotten splashed with some of our more unattractive colors when we weren't being very careful with our life...our words.
Peace my friends....pray for each other....those you know and those you don't. Pray for our county and the people in authority over us. Pray for me that I will one day lose all my brushes but the happy ones.